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This is the image for the news article titled High school internships offer real career experiences
High school internships offer real career experiences
It was 9:20 on a Tuesday morning when Alexandria-Monroe Jr.-Sr. High School student Cole Leemon leisurely scratched between the ears of Georgia, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Leemon, 18, wasn’t skipping school to play with one of his four dogs at home. In fact, he was enhancing his education through an internship opportunity provided by the school at Alexandria Animal Hospital. “Doing as little as I’m doing right now, I feel I’m doing more for animals than I have before,” he said. The senior is one of about nine students participating in a pilot program between the high school and several businesses in various Madison County locations. The program, which strives to match students with employers in a field of interest or skill, is intended to help students acquire additional skills and determine whether the discipline in which they think they may be interested actually would be a possible career path. Alexandria Community Schools is one of several districts that are trying to give students, especially in vocational studies, some real-world experience through unpaid internships. Though he’s not yet certain where he’d like to seek his post-secondary education, Leemon said he became interested in becoming a veterinary technician because of the many animals in his household, which also include two guinea pigs and a cat. “In my house, I grew up with animals. I could be sleeping and wake up and my dad would have a new animal,” he said. When he was approached by Beth Bates, family and consumer science teacher at the high school, he jumped at the chance to do the internship. Leemon and others were selected partially based on their senior schedules. “I wanted to be able to have a schedule that wasn’t as stressful because my junior year was really stressful,” he said. Through the internship, Leemon is doing much more than fetching coffee and shuffling papers. Leemon, for instance, helps prep the patients for surgery, holds them while Dr. Tamara Chastain examines them and takes them on walks. “I get to set up the IV bags. That might not be as important as I think it is, but I feel it’s a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I expected to come in and just hold animals, so it’s a lot more than I expected.” Chastain said when she was approached by Bates, she was interested in helping because she had the good fortune of working under a great mentor. “I’ve always had a passion for teaching. I really enjoy mentoring people,” she said. “The individual I worked with at Alexandria schools really seemed to have a clear vision for the program and was well organized.” Leemon’s pathway is a little unusual for the fledgling program, which is concentrating on careers in computer science, human health and technical careers. Other students, for instance, are doing internships in social work at Aspire in Anderson and in radiology at Elwood’s St. Vincent Mercy Hospital. “As the students go through high school, they are maybe going to take some aptitude tests and explore these three pathways until we can add more,” she said. Some of the internships are for a few hours, and others are daylong, Bates said. Altogether, they must spend at least 85 hours each semester working at the internship site. “It’s whatever fits into the employer’s schedule,” she said. “We had to work around and move everybody’s schedule.” The student in the radiology internship, Bates said, actually will be allowed to explore more than one medical field, Bates said. “There’s a lot of avenues and opportunities even in one company that I didn’t know about,” she said. “They have an idea they want to do one thing, but once they start, their eyes are open to other things they can do in that career.” Through the program, Bates said, students also learn soft skills that many employers have told her they want to see. Students, who earn four credits for the yearlong class, prepare resumes, do mock interviews and learn appropriate workplace dress, she added. In the end, they will have a portfolio that can be used toward obtaining employment. Students also will have to spend about 30 hours doing classroom work, most of it online, which helps them learn time management and self-discipline, Bates said. “It’s the self-motivation to get the assignments in on time,” she said. Broadening exposure The internship program at Alexandria-Monroe Jr.-Sr. High School is one of several strategies intended to support Alexandria Community Schools Superintendent Melissa Brisco’s vision that each senior should be prepared to be employed, educated or enlisted upon graduation. Brisco has said she wants to begin introducing students to various career opportunities as early as kindergarten. She said far too many children are stuck thinking about only a small range of careers, such as doctor, lawyer or firefighter. “We want them prepared to go into one of several pathways by the time they reach high school,” she said. Those include academic pathways that may require post-secondary education and vocational pathways through which students can earn certifications that allow them to enter the workplace before or as soon as they graduate from high school. Brisco said though some have forecast that today’s high school graduates will have on average as many as seven different careers, ushering them through pathways won’t necessarily lock them in. Written by: Rebecca R. Bibbs from The Herald Bulletin
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Facility Study
Last May the district contracted KrM Architects to assess our three school facilities.  The presentation was shared with the board during the August 2017 school board meeting.  This information will help the district make future facility decisions. 
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